Jehovah's Witnesses seek ways to operate in Uzbekistan


RIA Novosti, 29 June 2017

Authorities of Uzbekistan and the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (the activity of whose chief center was ruled to be extremist and prohibited in the RF) are conducting a constructive dialogue about its activity in the republic, RIA Novosti was told on Thursday at the Committee on Religious Affairs under the government of Uzbekistan.


In April the American Commission on International Religious Freedom designated 16 countries, including Uzbekistan, as countries violating religious liberty by using a law against extremism for restricting the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses.


The Uzbek Committee for Religious Affairs reported that yesterday a vice-chairman of the committee, Utkir Khasanbaev, met with representatives of the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the U.S.A., Kenneth Flodin, and of the European association of the organization, Lorenzo Trapanese. "Flodin expressed thanks for the reception and information conveyed and he described the goals of his visit, which include discussion of questions of the activity of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in the republic. He also expressed his satisfaction with the conversation conducted with the leadership of the committee," a representative of the committee said.


He said that in the course of the meeting, the Uzbek side noted that the provisions of the legislation of Uzbekistan comply with all standards of international pacts and agreements about human rights pertaining to freedom of conscience. "On the basis of the results of the conversations, the sides agreed to continue pertinent consultations on the questions discussed. The meeting proceeded in a constructive, friendly environment," the committee added.


Law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan have previously frequently arrested representatives of Jehovah's Witnesses for illegally attracting into their ranks local residents and for conducting secret meetings in various regions of the country. The Jehovah's Witnesses are registered in only one city, Chirchik, outside Tashkent. By law they have the right to conduct meetings only there and in addition conducting religious propaganda is forbidden. According to Uzbek legislation, detainees are subject to administrative accountability and to a fine of up to 100 times the minimum wage (around 4,500 dollars).


In Uzbekistan, over 2,200 religious organizations are registered, of which more than 90% are Muslim. In addition, 157 Christian organizations are active in the country along with eight Jewish communities, six societies of Bahai, one society of Krishnaites, and one Buddhist temple.


Jehovah's Witnesses are an international religious organization with headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. According to the Jehovists' website, Witnesses have existed in Russia for more than 100 years. Beginning in 2004, by decision of courts, a number of congregations and local divisions of Jehovah's Witnesses in the regions have been closed—in Belgorod, Samara, Rostov, and Orel provinces and in other constituent entities of the RF. On 20 April the Russian Supreme Court ruled the activity of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia—the parent organization administering affiliates of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia--to be extremist. (tr. by PDS, posted 29 June 2017)

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